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Ohio’s Austen BioInnovation Institute may get $5 million in federal aid

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron is among the big winners in a federal defense spending bill that cleared a critical U.S. House subcommittee on Tuesday. If ultimately approved by the full U.S. House and Senate and signed by the president, the measure will bring $5 million in federal money to the BioInnovation Institute. The […]

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron is among the big winners in a federal defense spending bill that cleared a critical U.S. House subcommittee on Tuesday.

If ultimately approved by the full U.S. House and Senate and signed by the president, the measure will bring $5 million in federal money to the BioInnovation Institute.

The economic development partnership pulls together researchers and health-care providers from Akron’s three hospital systems, the University of Akron and the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy.

BioInnovation Institute President and Chief Executive Dr. Frank Douglas said the federal money would be used primarily to boost the institute’s ongoing research in wound healing.

”This has tremendous applications to the war efforts,” Douglas said. ”Many of our soldiers die in the field because of wounds.”

Under the bill, Stark State College also could get a total of $6 million for research and development related to the defense materials and manufacturing industry, according to a news re
lease from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, a member of the House appropriations committee’s defense subcommittee.

The tax-supported community college in Jackson Township would get $3 million for a pilot program to ensure a steady supply of aerospace-grade titanium for the Defense Logistics Agency and armor-grade titanium for the Army Research and Development Command.

Another $3 million would go to Stark State’s Defense Metals Technology Center, which helps maintain an industrial base to support the cost-effective manufacture of military hardware.

The University of Akron also stands to gain $1 million in funding to develop a new technology to reduce the cost of mortar base plates and to increase the durability and life of the product. The goal is to meet the weight reduction and performance needs of the military.

In addition, the bill includes $5 million to support research efforts of the Children’s Oncology Group, a national pediatric cancer research cooperative that includes Akron Children’s Hospital.

The money would be used to expand existing U.S. Department of Defense research to help discover new therapies for childhood cancers that resist existing treatment options.

The federal infusion of research dollars is important, particularly given the recent drop in available funds nationwide because of the struggling economy, said Dr. Jeffrey Hord, director of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.

”It’s very important to get additional funds to continue research into childhood cancer,” he said.

A Texas-based nonprofit research and development organization that will test therapies at hospitals in the region also is slated to get $3 million in funding, according to Ryan.

The Southwest Research Institute would use the federal funds to develop improved treatments for severe wounds that combine laser and drug therapies. Outpatient clinics in Akron and Youngstown and the BioInnovation Institute — in partnership with Akron Children’s Hospital — would provide patient testing.

The potential funding for the BioInnovation Institute comes one week after Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland was in Akron to announce state support for the project and the Akron area’s biomedical focus.

The state is providing a $2.5 million low-interest loan to help finance a $10 million renovation project that will transform the current Summit County Job and Family Services building on North Main Street into the new headquarters for the institute.

The state also is providing $250,000 to the region after designating Akron the state’s ”Hub of Innovation and Opportunity” for biomaterials for orthopedics and healing wounds.

Within a decade, the Akron-area partnership wants to create 2,400 jobs and attract at least $50 million in investments annually in area medical companies.

”This gives us tremendous momentum,” Douglas said. ”Ultimately, we have two goals — improvement of health and moving these projects toward commercialization so we can create jobs.”

Cheryl Powell is a health reporter for The Akron Beacon Journal, the daily newspaper in Akron and a syndication partner of MedCity News.

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